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How do I choose a cell phone provider?

There are many cell phone service providers looking for your business by advertising their reliability, customer service reputation and cell phone deals. How do you choose the right one for you?

Compare cell phone companies

Generally speaking, prepaid services from smaller carriers benefit people with modest data needs. Heavy data users, or those wanting multiple lines for their family, will most likely be happier with one of the major nation-wide carriers. Read reviews from current customers to learn what first-hand experiences they’ve had with the carriers and the model of the phone. Ask your friends what phone company they use and if they are satisfied.

Questions to ask before signing any cell phone contracts:

  • How much data do I really need? Be wary of “unlimited data.” Most people don’t actually use that much data and end up paying for a more expensive plan than they need. Your data usage depends on your Wi-Fi access, how much you plan to stream on your phone and if you plan to use your phone for gaming. Ask your provider how you will be notified if your data runs low and how much you will be charged if you exceed your monthly limit.
  • What areas does your company provide service? Ask the salesperson to note, on a map, where you can have enough signal strength to make and receive calls. Do your own research by reading customer reviews of those who live in your area to determine the reliability and strength of the coverage being offered. Many providers’ zip code maps don’t take into account small dead zones in your neighborhood.
  • How long am I contracted to do service with this company? Many companies now offer no long term contracts. This helps you as a consumer to be able to switch carriers if a better deal is offered. Many consumers report having a lower bill by shopping the competitive market. If you do opt for a contract-based service, be sure to ask about any Early Termination Fees (fee for canceling before the end of your contract.)
  • What additional fees will be included on my bill? It is not uncommon for your cellular bill to have an additional $10 ‑ $20 worth of fees and surcharges. Examples of these additional taxes, fees, and surcharges include City, County, State, and Federal Taxes, Number Portability Recovery Fee, and E911 Recovery Fee.

Steps for Successful Cell Phone Ownership:

  • Research the differences between iOS and Android phones. Determine if you’re willing to pay more for higher-end options or if you just need the basics. Various screen sizes, display and color quality will make a big difference depending on how you plan to use your phone. Be sure you understand how much storage you are purchasing so you don’t end up with a phone you are unable to utilize to its full potential.
  • Read the contract, along with the terms and conditions before signing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something in the contract. Also, if the representative promises something that’s not in your contract, make them put it in writing. This will help avoid future "he said, she said" arguments.
  • Check your monthly billing statements closely. If you don’t think you are being billed correctly, call customer service immediately to clarify the terms of your plan. If the bill is still incorrect, ask for the representative’s name and ID number, and ask them to put a note on your account detailing the dispute.
  • It may seem cheaper to work with a dealer or reseller of the phone service, but it can cost you money in the long run. The consumer is usually required to sign an additional agreement with the dealer or reseller, as well as one with the service provider, forcing you to pay two Early Termination Fees if you cancel service before your contract ends.
  • Now, you can lease a new phone like a car, pay it off in interest-free installments, or buy it outright and enjoy a lower monthly bill. 
  • Be cautious when considering the purchase of cellular phones or service via the Internet, auction sites or third party resellers. Numerous third party dealers state they can offer cheaper discounts on phones, but you may pay in the long run. The phone you purchase may not end up working with your service or there may be hidden activation and termination fees involved.
  • Consumers are strongly encouraged to research the company before doing business with them. Useful information may be found from Internet search engines, the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.com) or the Kansas online business entity search (http://www.accesskansas.org/apps/corporations.html).

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